The Top 5 Techniques for Grilling Pizza

The sun is shining. A fresh breeze is blowing. It's that Al Fresco time of year again!

And time to expand your bbq repertoire.

Karen Adler and I have spent the last two years experimenting with pizza and flatbreads on the grill. Our new book, Patio Pizzeria, is a testament to our love of thinking outside the bbq box.

Whether you're young or old, meat-loving or vegan, aficionados of traditional dough or gluten-free, there is a pizza or flatbread for you.

Plus, there are FIVE different ways to grill pizzas, depending on your grill, your pizza equipment, and your expertise. 

Let's start with the most basic technique.

1. Pizza on the Grill Grates. 

This technique offers the best grill flavor. You simply roll out or pat small rounds of dough, brush them with olive oil, and slap them on a medium-hot grill, right on the grates. Leave one side of the grill unheated. Each dough round will get grill marks and firm up, so you can turn it over and put on your toppings. 

Fresh from the garden toppings. . . .

Or traditional toppings. . . .

Then, slide each pizza over to the unheated side of the grill, close the lid, and let the cheese melt and the underside get cooked. Easy!

2. Pizza on the Plancha

Heat up a grill griddle or a cast iron skillet on your grill grates, grill lid closed, for about 20 minutes or until you know the cast iron is hot.

Then grill your flatbread or pizza rolls right on the plancha with the grill lid closed. This works especially well for gluten-free pizza dough.

Depending on your grill, you might want to turn the pizza or pizza roll over if it looks like the underside is getting really brown.

3. Pizza on the Pizza Stone

There is a trick to getting good pizza on a pizza stone with a traditional gas or charcoal grill. 

You have to turn it once, then put on the toppings.  Why? Although the pizza stone evens out the temperature on the bottom of the pizza,  the hot air circulating in the grill goes to the top of the grill lid; the heat does not hover on top of the pizza. So the top takes longer to get done. By turning the pizza dough over, you speed that up.

So, simply place the dough on the hot pizza stone and close the grill lid. When the dough is brown on the bottom, turn it over with a grill spatula. Add your toppings, close the grill lid, and finish grilling until your pizza is done.

4. Pizza in a Pan.

You can do delicious focaccia in a disposable aluminum pan on the indirect side (no heat) side of your grill.  Here's how we did it recently on TV:

Watch how to make pizza in pan

5. Pizza in a Pizza Oven.

You can turn your charcoal or gas grill into a pizza oven that will grill-bake pizzas at temperatures of 500 to 600 degrees F. with a pizza insert. A pizza insert traps the hot air right around your pizza instead of having it drift up into your grill lid.

Here is a Beefeater pizza insert for a gas grill. Note the temperature dial on the front so you can see how hot your pizza "oven" gets. And also note the pizza stone right on the grill grates.

To grill a pizza in a pizza insert, you need to sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel

And then quickly slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone in the pizza insert.  It will cook in minutes.

If you want to do a Neapolitan-style pizza with a very thin crust, use Italian 00 flour so it will roll very thinly. Put on your toppings and slide it all into the pizza "oven."

In a few minutes, you'll have a pizza (with those raised, charry blisters known as cornicione) you can't believe you just made. 

That's Patio Pizzeria!